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The Olympic Committee Thinks You're Stupid

The UN and IOC have a bizarre relationship that goes a long way toward explaining why neither one of them does much of anything to realize their ideals.
Photo by Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The United Nations and the International Olympic Committee are natural partners, like drought and famine. Consider the recent UN resolution titled "Sport as means to promote education, health, development and peace." The document cites the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics and the 2014 Nanjing Youth Summer Olympics as examples of the IOC's capacity to further "education, understanding, peace, harmony and tolerance" and inspire youth to "embrace, embody and express the Olympic values."


However, at no point does the UN address the fact that the host countries—Russia and China—have been roundly criticized by Human Rights Watch for an ongoing "crackdown on civil society" and a political system described as an "authoritarian one-party state," respectively. Incredibly, that doesn't even begin to cover the volume of bullshit the UN is spewing into the gleeful, expectant mouth of the IOC.

Read More: The Olympics Are A Multi-Billion Dollar Boondoggle

A statement released by IOC president Thomas Bach following the resolution's adoption spares no breath droning on about the #brand #synergy between the two organizations and takes no small glee in twice quoting UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon's 2009 proclamation that "Olympic principles are United Nations principles."

This dovetailing of empty principles is rooted in the so-called Olympic Truce, a tradition dating back to the original Greek games and reintroduced prior to the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Games. The truce's vague aim is to "create a window of opportunities for dialogue and reconciliation," and, according to the same UN that so lavishly praised the IOC's capacity to further a utopian planet, the truce has been "disregarded in numerous instances, with widespread fighting continuing in ongoing armed conflicts around the world. Sadly, there is no evidence of any initiative by warring parties either to unilaterally observe the Olympic Truce or to promote its mutual observation."


The author of that report? Why none other than UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon.

Photo by Andrew Fielding-USA TODAY Sports

In its own sick way, this all makes perfect sense for the UN. A generous assessment of the UN would be that it's a bureaucratic zero-sum organization that lacks the real power and collective desire to pursue the shiny, happy world it supposedly works toward.The UN's security council makes that much clear since it counts both—wait for it—China and Russia as two of its five permanent members with veto power. The U.S. and U.K. are also permanent members, which means the security council is ruled by nations with their fingerprints all over many of the world's armed conflicts, both past and present.

With that in mind, the UN's praise of the IOC reads as nothing more than one pointless organization praising another—safety and self-justification in numbers and all that. The IOC's rapturous gobbling of said praise, however, gets to the why of its desire to be viewed as an agent of peace. As is always the case with the IOC, it's about the money.

In 2011, NBC agreed to a $4.38 billion television rights contract with the IOC to broadcast the 2014, 2016, 2018, and 2020 Olympic Games in the United States. That $4.38 billion sum doesn't cover the myriad international television rights deals that the IOC cuts either. Then there's the estimated $100 million fee that various corporations pay just to be recognized as a "major sponsor," which gives them the right to spend even more money on Olympic-themed marketing and advertising. Then keep in mind that Olympic athletes are not paid by the IOC nor is the IOC responsible for the multi-billion dollar costs that come with organizing and putting on the Olympic Games. The profit margin on this shit would make Milton Friedman blush, were he not so thankfully dead. The IOC branding itself as an agent of peace goes a long way toward keeping the public from noticing their role in accomplishing the opposite.

This is, after all, the same IOC that handed the 1936 Summer Games over to Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany and made itself complicit in the multi-decade Mexican Dirty War by allowing the 1968 Summer Games to go on just 10 days after the Tlatelolco massacre. There are many equally antiquated examples, so let's not forget that China and Russia—two of the most populous and repressed nations in the world—are two of the most recent hosts of Olympic Games. The focus need not be outward either, as the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games—the last Olympics held in the U.S.—were quietly marred by allegations that the city engaged in mass arrests of its homeless population, a policy that our Chinese friends on the UN security council happily mimicked in 2008. All of this, and so much more, happens with nary a word from the IOC, but that's to be expected.

In his statement on the UN resolution, Bach notes that "Politics must respect this sporting autonomy" and "we [the IOC] respect national laws which are not targeted against sport." Those two statements unveil the game: the IOC wants to, somehow, be viewed as an organization that transcends politics while also furthering peace. This would be profoundly stupid if it wasn't so self-serving.

The IOC, like the UN, is powerless to do anything about the issues it purports to help solve. The difference is that while the UN is structurally incapable of doing shit about shit, the IOC could rather easily take at least a symbolic stand against the repressive regimes it so readily lends its name to by simply refusing them the privilege of hosting the Olympic Games. However, this would acknowledge that sport is not and has never been apolitical, the IOC's own actions make that much clear.

The IOC is trying its square best to maintain the facade that keeps its brand appealing to a mass-market audience, while remaining complicit with the morally bankrupt regimes that subsidize its excesses. The hypocrisy is obvious and right in your face. It's almost like the IOC thinks you're stupid to fall for this hustle. Then again, most of the world already has.